The party of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has won the nation’s general election, unofficial results reported by local TV stations showed, after the main opposition alliance rejected the polls.
Marred by claims of vote rigging and voter suppression, Sunday’s elections also saw at least 17 people killed in clashes between rival supporters, police said.
“We reject the farcical election, and want the election commission to hold a fresh election under a non-partisan administration,” Kamal Hossain, head of the opposition Jatiya Oikya Front alliance, told a news conference on Sunday night.
Earlier on Sunday, results showed Hasina racing into a lead, winning each of the first 29 seats declared – some by tens of thousands of votes – according to Channel 24, which is compiling results from around the country.
The deadly violence and bitter rivalry that marred the election campaign spilled over into voting day, even as authorities imposed tight security with 600,000 troops, police and other security forces deployed across the country.
Hasina, 71, has been lauded for boosting economic growth in the poor South Asian nation during her decade in power and for welcoming Rohingya refugees fleeing a military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar.
But critics accuse her of authoritarianism and crippling the opposition, including archrival Khaleda Zia who is serving 17 years in prison on graft charges, to cling on to power.
The BNP-led opposition alliance on Sunday accused Hasina’s party of using stuffed ballot boxes and other illegal means to fix the result, which was to be announced on Monday.
BNP spokesperson Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal told reporters there were “irregularities” in 221 of the 300 seats contested. Its ally Jamaat-e-Islami said it would reject the results.
“Voters are not allowed to enter booths. Especially women voters are being forced to vote for the boat,” Alal said, referring to the Awami League symbol.
Hasina needs 151 seats to control parliament but experts say a victory would be sullied by accusations that she hamstrung opponents.
The opposition says more than 15,000 of its activists were detained during the campaign, crushing its ability to mobilise support.
Human Rights Watch and other international groups said the crackdown created a climate of fear which could prevent opposition supporters from casting ballots.
The United States raised concerns about the credibility of the election while the United Nations called for greater efforts to make the vote fair.
Seventeen opposition candidates have been arrested over what they claim are trumped-up charges while another 17 were disqualified from running by courts, which Hasina’s opponents say are government controlled.
Hasina rejects accusations of authoritarianism but analysts say she feared young voters would support the BNP.
Hasina, daughter of Bangladesh’s first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was gifted victory in the 2014 election when the BNP boycotted the vote claiming it was not free and fair.
Rights groups have since accused her administration of stifling freedom of speech by toughening a draconian anti-press law and the enforced disappearance of dissenters.
Source: Al Jazeera